Politico Magazine Extends Raised Middle Finger To Its Readers

September 23, 2014 by  
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Susan Glasser once wrote the following in an “Editors’ Note,” introducing people to Politico Magazine:

We all know we live at a moment of information overload, when there is arguably more and better news coverage than ever before but when something essential risks being lost: The time and ambition to break out of the news cycle, to pull back from the flood to understand what it’s all about. To look for context, insight and plain-old amazing stories. Enter this magazine.

Today, this entered Politico Magazine: “What Should Chelsea Clinton Name Her Baby? Hot tips from Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Longtime HuffPost readers know that my favorite part of any Politico story is where the author negates the premise of the piece or otherwise comes out and admits, “I should not have written this. This was a waste of everyone’s time. I hate myself, and you should hate me too.” Here’s this article’s author, Adam B. Lerner, doing this schtick:

We admit it — much of the speculation about Chelsea Clinton’s newborn child is a bit premature and, frankly, more than a little ridiculous. It’s crazy to think that the 2016 presidential election could hinge on whether Hillary can take advantage of her new grandmotherly image, rather than, say, the state of the economy or the candidates’ positioning on other key issues.

Let me summarize the remainder of this hot garbage: There is a list of the most popular baby names in Iowa and New Hampshire, and a name-check of the book, Freakonomics, which was a thing that bloggers name-checked back in 2006.

By far the most bizarre thing going on in this article is this strange presumption that the grandparents of Chelsea Clinton’s baby will be naming it, and not the child’s parents. The entire piece is predicated on this idea. It’s not every day that you come across a “researcher” for a “magazine” that demonstrates selective understanding of how babies get named, but for me, today is that day.

I feel a tremendous amount of pity for everyone involved in the publication of this weird story about Chelsea Clinton’s baby.

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New York Times Launches ‘First Draft’ Politics Site And Newsletter

September 22, 2014 by  
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NEW YORK — Carl Hulse, a veteran of The New York Times for nearly three decades, considers there to be a hole in the paper’s Washington report.

The Times, online and in print, covers the day’s big news and often looks more broadly at the political landscape. And Times reporters routinely tweet immediate insights and news nuggets. But the Times has lagged behind competitors in having venue for political scooplets that might not immediately merit a full story, quick takes off the news, and coverage of social life around Washington.

“We haven’t had sort of a running daily political news feed,” Hulse said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “We’re trying to fill that void now. We may be late to the game, but we’re trying to do it in our own distinctive way.”

On Monday, the Times is launching First Draft, a morning email newsletter and politics site within NYTimes.com.

Hulse said First Draft, which is expected to land in subscribers’ inboxes around 7 a.m., will highlight political stories running that morning in the Times and include some aggregation and links to competitors.

But Hulse said First Draft will differentiate itself through original content, with Times reporters’ scoops, analysis and coverage of parties and events that’ll be found there first. Some, but certainly not all, First Draft items could develop later into full Times articles appearing online and in the next day’s print edition.

The Times’ long-running Washington blog, The Caucus, has become largely idle so there hasn’t been a go-to platform for such content. The Times plans to update First Draft frequently, with hopes that political news junkies will return throughout the day.

First Draft will also feature a more blog-like, conversational tone than is typically found in the Times daily news report. Hulse said the newsletter will cover insider-heavy social events, such as last week’s D.C. premiere of “Madam Secretary,” but will not include birthdays, a la Politico Playbook.

The newsletter is free, but readers who aren’t Times subscribers will reach the paper’s paywall after clicking through 10 stories. There is no launch sponsor for the First Draft newsletter, but a Times spokeswoman said there will be advertising opportunities down the line.

The First Draft team includes Hulse, as managing editor, along with reporter Alan Rappeport, producer Nicholas Corasaniti and editor Paul Volpe. But Hulse said he wants, and needs, reporters throughout the Washington bureau to pitch in.

A couple of weeks ago, Hulse brought Heineken mini-kegs into the Washington bureau so colleagues could enjoy a draft during the in-house unveiling of First Draft. Hulse said reporters seemed excited to contribute and noted that “people around here vacuum up a lot of information and we haven’t had a venue to share it all.”

Hulse noted that he and his colleagues throw out political observations on Twitter. While Hulse said Times staffers shouldn’t be discouraged from tweeting, the newsletter and site can provide a “more organized way” to take advantage of reporters’ and editors’ quick insights.

The idea for First Draft has been kicking around for a while. Jill Abramson, then-executive editor of the Times, announced plans for the morning tip sheet in November 2013 and there were expectations for at least a soft launch by late spring. In June, Politico reported the project was being “reconsidered” and could potentially be scrapped altogether.

Hulse said the Times paused to do market research and run focus groups to better assess what readers wanted from such a product. He also noted that a number of designers and members of the interactive team in New York have been working on the site, which is expected to feature plenty of video and data visualizations. The site will also include features to engage readers, such as a “Midterms Q&A” allowing readers to ask questions of Times reporters and editors leading up to the November elections.

“Everyone here knows we need to be engaging in new ways with readers,” Hulse said. “And everyone here has stuff in their notebooks and knows things and runs across things that we’re really not reporting now.”

The Struggle to Reach Out and Tell the Climate Story

September 21, 2014 by  
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Photo Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock.com

“Nope, no. No. Nuh-uh. These aren’t good.”

I’m sitting next to one of my instructors at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism where I’m taking a course in multimedia. We’re going through a series of photographs I’d taken for an assignment and he’s critiquing them.

“The photos don’t make me feel anything,” he says.

The day before, I had gone out to shoot photos with an agenda: to find a story about climate change and how it affects people — the same thing I do every day at work. I intended to find a science person to interview about the California drought and work in a climate change angle. But that was not going to happen. The instructors had given us an insanely tight deadline for a series of assignments — all due simultaneously — and restricted the location for our stories. On top of that, I was struggling with unfamiliar equipment.

The instructors also told us not to get blocked into our initial vision. But I was blocked and I was ticked off, too. It was obvious that I was not going to have my way. I felt like I was being pressed into an assignment that was impossible to complete within the allotted time frame. And frankly, I also thought the assignment was beyond my skill set and unrealistic for me.

But the assignment was due and there was no way I was going to quit. I was out in the field, walking around, and I absolutely had to find a stranger, interview him or her and make it work, period, end of story, done. Wandering through my assigned neighborhood, I stopped to admire a well-groomed garden in the front yard of one of the homes. When the homeowner, Migdalia Collazo, walked out onto her porch, I asked if she would allow me to photograph and interview her.

During that first photo shoot, I focused on composition, color, light and context, thinking that was the route to a compelling shot. But my photos were lacking the most important element: a compelling story, something to feel.

After the critique, my teacher’s words stayed with me, reverberating in my head:

The photos don’t make me feel anything.
The photos don’t make me feel anything.
The photos don’t make me feel anything.

As a climate and Earth science communicator, I find this is the biggest challenge. We’re in a constant fight to capture attention, to move people, to make them care about how their behavior is affecting Earth.

To feel something.

But we get caught up with logical analysis of facts and don’t understand why many people don’t hear our stories. This is incredibly frustrating because, for us, climate change is so important, so dire, such a big deal. We desperately want to reach out and let our stories be told, to find the right way for the meaning to get through.

So from now on, I’m committed. My goal is to find a way to inspire you to feel something.

I look forward to reading your comments,

This post originally appeared on NASA’s Earth Right Now blog.

This blog post is part of the #WhyICare blog series, curated by the editors of HuffPost Generation Change in recognition of the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014. To see all the other posts in the series, click here.

Join the conversation on Twitter and tell us why you care about the climate crisis with the hashtags #WhyICare and #PCM. For more information about the People’s Climate March, click here.

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How The Internet Reacted To The NY Times Calling Shonda Rhimes An ‘Angry Black Woman’

September 20, 2014 by  
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Shonda Rhimes, along with her cast and much of the Internet, wasn’t too happy on Friday when the New York Times TV Critic called the TV legend an “angry black woman.”

Allesandra Stanley’s article from Thursday takes a stab at Rhimes’ new series “How To Get Away With Murder,” opening her piece with: “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called ‘How to Get Away With Being an Angry Black Woman.’” Ouch. Stanley goes on to discuss Rhimes’ supposed “set of heroines who flout ingrained television conventions and preconceived notions about the depiction of diversity” and other black women on TV.

Let’s just say, Rhimes wasn’t too pleased with it and shared some of her thoughts over Twitter:

Wait. I’m" angry" AND a ROMANCE WRITER?!! I’m going to need to put down the internet and go dance this one out. Because ish is getting real.

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) September 19, 2014

Joshua Malina of “Scandal” also chimed in:

Wow. Did I just read a @nytimes piece that reduced my brilliant, creative, compassionate, thoughtful, badass boss to an “angry black woman?”

— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) September 19, 2014

Meanwhile, Kerry Washington decided to share some of the many thinkpieces in response to Stanley’s article:

Dear @nytimes




You’re welcome.


— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) September 19, 2014

Willa Paskin over at Slate quickly jumped to defend Rhimes’ many achievements when it comes to television and black female characters. “Rhimes is no more the ‘angry black woman’ than her characters,” Paskin writes, “who are angry the way that a bird is bipedal: It’s not false, but it’s not to the point.” The critic went on break down Rhimes’ female characters and praise how the creator has “re-framed the stereotype of the ‘angry black woman’” by carving out a space for black females on TV.

At Vox, Alex Abad-Santos calls to light that Stanley constantly refers to Rhimes when discussing “HTGAWM” in her essay — Rhimes isn’t even the creator of the new series, she’s one of the executive producers. Abad-Santos writes, “the piece refers to Rhimes 19 times and has only one mention of [Pete] Nowalk,” creator of “HTGAWM.” Rhimes also found this puzzling:

Confused why @nytimes critic doesn’t know identity of CREATOR of show she’s reviewing. @petenowa did u know u were "an angry black woman"?

— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) September 19, 2014

Over at Vulture, Margaret Lyons called the NY Times essay “inaccurate, tone-deaf, muddled, and racist.” Lyons notes a selection of obviously angry Rhimes characters (Mellie, Cyrus, etc.) who Stanley fails to mention. “What’s the difference between a rant and a monologue? Sometimes just the race of the person delivering it,” Lyons writes. She ends her response piece by hypothetically assuming that even if Stanley’s assessment were correct, there’s still a flaw: “Is there anything in this article in particular that suggests any of these characters are based at all on Shonda Rhimes?,” Lyons questions. “There is not.”

From now on, when trying to take down a beloved and powerful producer, it may be best to not totally associate the creator –or executive producer– with their shows’ characters, or more specifically, with characters of one race.

Oprah Is About To Cross A Rather Unusual Item Off Her Bucket List (VIDEO)

September 19, 2014 by  
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When you’re Oprah Winfrey, you’ve had a lot of incredible life experiences to be grateful for. In her 60 years, Oprah has sat down with current and former presidents, gotten a hug from the world’s tallest dog, hung out in her pajamas with the late Dr. Maya Angelou and road tripped across the country with her best friend, to name a few. But even the talk-show titan has a few things she still hasn’t experienced.

During one stop on Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend tour, a curious attendee asked Oprah if she had a bucket list of things she was hoping to do in her life and, if so, what item took the number-one spot.

“I hadn’t thought of having a bucket list. But so many of you, since this is your bucket list, I’m now thinking I might make a bucket list!” Oprah says to the tour attendees in the above video.

To answer the fan’s question, Oprah reveals the rather unusual experience she’s always meant to take part in, but hadn’t kept plans to follow through on — until this year. In October, another class of young women will graduate from The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, and, as she does each year, Oprah will attend. This time, however, she’s planning a pit stop.

“Every summer I’ve planned this and never did it,” she says. “On the way to South Africa this time, I’m stopping in Italy and I’m going on a truffle hunt with the pigs and the dogs.”

The audience laughs and applauds as Oprah continues. “That has been on my list for a long time,” she says. “This year, finally, I’m going to do that!”

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Where We Left Off And What To Expect On ‘The Good Wife’

September 18, 2014 by  
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“The Good Wife” is finally back, and with any luck, Season 6 will be less frustrating than its predecessor. To get all caught up and ready for Sunday’s premiere, let’s relive all the turmoil at Lockhart/Gardner… and Florrick/Agos.

Alicia and Carey and a handful of other fourth-year associates finally decided to form their own firm, and the first 14 episodes of the season consist solely of plotlines that pit them against Lockhart/Gardner. Each week we watched as both firms vied for clients and debated how low they would sink to beat each other as opposing counsel. They worked tirelessly to erode the bond and respect once shared between Will and Alicia.

It was an exhausting, not a particularly enjoyable viewing experience, if we’re being real. But that all changed with the sudden and unexpected death of Will Gardner, who was shot by his client, Jeffery Grant, in open court.

The remaining episodes of the Season 5 reminded us why “The Good Wife” is one of the most critically acclaimed shows on television.

After Will’s death, the show took a dramatic turn away from the nonstop pettiness and squabbling. Alicia reconnected with Diane after Will’s funeral and they considered merging their firms. Alicia dealt with Will’s death by pushing her husband Peter away, while also reaching out to Finn Polmar, the prosecutor in the Jeffery Grant case. She convinced him to run for state’s attorney so he couldn’t be fired by the current state’s attorney looking to use him as a scapegoat for Will’s death.

Then there was the whole NSA storyline and a Silk Road-Bitcoin case. Additionally, the wonderfully creepy Colin Sweeney made yet another appearance. Oh, and we can’t forget that photo of Finn leaving Alicia’s apartment that State’s Attorney Castro brought to Peter and Eli as ammo to save his own campaign.

In the season finale, Diane pulled a big twist and — rather than merging firms — straight up asked for Florrick/Agos to take her on, along her her $38 million per year in client billing. (Yeah, that’s right. Take that, David Lee and Louis Canning.)

But things couldn’t end just there, of course. Eli had to ask Alicia, “Would you want to run for state’s attorney?” Then it all faded to black, and we spent the last few months waiting, to hear Alicia’s answer.

What’s To Come In Season 6
Season 6 picks up right where we left off in Season 5, show creator Michelle King told E! News. “We’re not slowing down for even a moment. We’re barreling right ahead with our story,” she said.

CBS has released a few clips from the premiere and we have our answer.


Alicia does not want to run for state’s attorney. “I’m never saying yes,” she says. Well that’s done. Or is it?

In another clip, Diane is negotiating the terms of joining the firm with Alicia. She has 45 clients she plans to bring with her and it sounds like viewers can expect another season of battling it out with Lockheart/Gardner or whatever her old firm inevitably renames itself.

Season 6 of “The Good Wife” premieres Sunday, Sept. 21, at 9:00 p.m. ET on CBS (and will likely be delayed due to whatever football game is on, as always).

Lanny Davis Seems To Believe That Roger Goodell Has Been A Really Good Crisis Manager

September 17, 2014 by  
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So there is someone willing to defend beleaguered NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and it turns out it’s the guy who’s willing to defend almost anyone — Lanny Davis, crisis manager and author with a book to sell you, about crisis management. His defense of Goodell has been duly recorded and published at CNN, which is willing to publish anything.

At issue here is that whole Ray Rice business, wherein the National Football League, being aware that the Baltimore Ravens running back had clocked his then-fiancee Janay Palmer into a deep unconsciousness in a hotel elevator, punished Rice with a more lenient punishment than it metes out if you smoke a little weed now and again. To Davis’ mind, the people who have really behaved irresponsibly are those demanding accountability.

“When everyone is piling on,” says Davis, “it’s time to take a breath and say: We need more facts, less reliance on media reports based on anonymous sources and over-heated pundits who are too ready to rush to judgment.”

Left unsaid here is that the main reason we’ve been largely kept in the dark as to the facts, up until TMZ released the full video of Rice’s violent interaction with his fiancee, is that Goodell and his organization have endeavored mightily to keep those facts from coming to light. When the public was armed merely with the evidence that Rice had dragged his fiancee from the elevator, the NFL defended its decision to suspend him for a mere two games by sheltering in what had been unknown, essentially suggesting that Palmer had acted in such a way that mitigated the circumstances.

The Baltimore Ravens organization cheerfully sheltered in the same existential void, sending a May 23 tweet that read, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” The implication being that she had done something to bring Rice’s fist upon herself.

As craven as that now looks, given the fact that we all know now that the “role she played” was nothing more than being the punching bag of a violent abuser, that’s only the start of Goodell’s merry litany of falsehoods. As Deadspin’s Tom Ley has reported, these are legion.

And that’s probably why Davis’ “defense” of Goodell doesn’t really go on to … you know … defend him. What Davis wants you to know is that Goodell, for all his many faults, should be lauded for doing really good crisis management. But as you’ll see, Davis is also wrong about that.

Here’s Davis:

But then [Goodell] turned in the right direction, following the three basic rules of crisis management, whether in business, politics, or life.

First, he acknowledged that he made a mistake and took personal responsibility. He showed that he understood, albeit belatedly, how serious male violence against women is. In his August 28 letter to all NFL owners, Goodell wrote: “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better.”

In an accompanying memorandum that would be distributed to all personnel in the NFL, he wrote, in bold-faced dark letters, the following:

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.”

Suffice it to say, the process of “taking responsibility” is actually more complicated than simply saying, “My bad,” and then putting a bunch of universally true things in super-serious boldfaced type. An organization that needs its leader to remind it that domestic violence and sexual assault are “wrong,” and by the way “illegal,” is an organization that needs a remedial level of accountability imposed upon it. Goodell shows no real sign of wanting to do this — I’ll point you again to Ley’s list of deceits that have come straight from Goodell.

What’s next?

Second, he laid out a detailed forward-looking mandatory education and training program to implement this policy. Most important, he announced far more severe penalties than before, effective immediately for violations of this bold-faced policy: 1) at least six game suspensions for the first violation, with heavier penalties if facts show more serious offenses, such as violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child; and 2) a second offense will result in “banishment” from the NFL. That’s right, banishment — with no assumption that a petition for reinstatement will ever be accepted.

Davis maybe doesn’t realize this (or perhaps it’s a feature in the “crisis management” biz), but the first two sentences contradict one another. You can’t have a “forward-looking” domestic violence program if the program you’re implementing is only being implemented because you got caught out by TMZ’s release of the full video of Rice’s abuse. Goodell’s “forward-looking” policy was the two-game suspension standard, forged during what amounted to a cover-up of the facts. You don’t get to say, “Now that we’ve been pantsed by TMZ, we have a domestic violence punishment program that really lowers the boom,” and call that “forward-looking.”

Finally, we have this:

The third rule is to authorize an independent investigation to answer all the questions and verify the facts. And that is exactly what happened. Of course the emphasis is on the word “independent.”

Yes, this “independent investigation” was set up by New York Giants owner John Mara and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, and it involves parachuting former FBI Director Robert Mueller III into NFL HQ to give the league the full True Detective treatment.

Now, perhaps at this point you’re wondering how “independent” this investigation can be, given the fact that it’s all been put in place by a pair of owner-stakeholders. Lanny Davis wants you to shut your ignorant mouth:

I have read about doubts about Mueller’s objectivity because he comes from a large law firm that has ties to the NFL. My response: Nonsense. Robert Mueller is a former United States attorney, senior U.S. Justice Department official, and one of the most respected FBI directors in history.

Nonsense! By gum, Robert Mueller did some stuff, and you will respect that. Well, here’s some of the stuff that Davis is very quickly glossing over:

ESPN: “Mueller, based in Washington, D.C., is a partner in the law firm of WilmerHale, which helped negotiate the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package with DirecTV. The firm also has represented Washington R*****ns owner Dan Snyder, and several former members of the firm have taken positions with NFL teams.”

Mike Florio, NBC Sports: “One such former WilmerHale employee is, coincidentally, Ravens president Dick Cass, who joined the club after thirty-plus years at the firm.”

So the “doubts” that Davis has “read about” are actually the accurately reported accounts that document the obvious conflicts of interest with this “independent” investigation.

This is not good crisis management, when your BFF in the crisis management business puts easily penetrated obfuscations on CNN’s website in order to paper over all of the previous obfuscations reported everywhere else.

If you want to assess the potential that the NFL is prepared to be accountable for all of this, here are some things you should remember. Goodell made accountability your responsibility. He declined to take on the task himself. When the public was outraged about Rice’s meager suspension, Goodell told the public to trust him — because if you knew what was on the tape of the incident, you’d see it his way. When the public was outraged at the fact that the content of said tape put paid to those notions, Goodell adjusted the suspension policy but insisted that he hadn’t seen the full video.

It was only after the Associated Press had the NFL caught in that lie that Goodell did a modicum of facing the music. And now Lanny Davis is here to tell you that you don’t actually possess any facts — that everything you think you know about this incident actually has emerged from a wilderness of “innuendo and anonymous sources” and that you should wait for a conflict-laden investigator to spin you a tale of the real facts.

There’s a reason you don’t trust these guys. You should go with that instinct.

(By the way, here’s what good crisis management looks like, from Kristine Belisle, former adviser to federal inspectors general: “We might be embarrassed at times and disclose things that we could — and others would — easily hide, but we’ll shock the press with our honesty. No one else does this, and before long, we’ll have a built-in defense when we’re attacked. No matter what they hear, the press will come to us first and believe us, because we’ll prove to them that we tell the truth.”)

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Foley family honors journalist son killed by Islamic State with new non-profit

September 16, 2014 by  
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By Charles M. Sennott

ROCHESTER, New Hampshire — One month after the horrific video of American journalist James Foley’s beheading at the hands of the Islamic State was released, the Foley family finds itself at the center of a global debate over the US government’s policy to forbid the payment of ransom to terrorist organizations.

You’d never know all this was swirling around this faithful and dignified family here in the quiet New England town where they live and where Jim, 40, came of age along with his four siblings. But they have now stepped into a very public and emotional argument over how to address the rising scourge of kidnap and ransom.

To help focus that debate, the Foleys established a fund that will provide resources to families caught in the nightmare of a hostage situation, and that will also seek to enshrine a legacy for their brother and son who was executed after being taken hostage in Syria and held for nearly two years during which time he was beaten and tortured.

In announcing the formation of the James W. Foley Legacy Fund on Friday, John and Diane Foley have sought to confront their anguish by promoting Jim’s “passions and ideals among future generations.”

According to a statement about the nonprofit organization which was conceived of in the Foleys’ home by family, friends and supporters over the last few weeks, “The Fund’s foremost aim is to build a resource center for families of American hostages as they work to bring their loved ones home.”

This is an issue that weighs heavily on the Foleys, who have shared that they feel deeply for those families who still have loved ones held captive by the Islamic State or by other terrorist groups and criminal gangs around the world.

The Foleys have spoken out recently to the media, granting interviews to CNN, ABC News and the New York Times to share their frustration at the way the US handled the investigation into their son’s capture and, as they see it, its hands-off approach to helping them find a way to bring him home.

“The FBI didn’t help us much – let’s face it,” Diane Foley said in a recent New York Times article titled “For James Foley’s Family, US Policy Offered No Hope.”

For months, the Foleys’ sense of desperation and anguish, now also punctuated with some very human frustration and anger, was visible to those who know them and have spent time with them.

They privately shared some of these feelings with me in recent weeks during visits to their home. In addition to frustration with the FBI, the lead agency on Jim’s case, they also expressed their disappointment with the inability of the State Department and the White House to do more. But only in the last few days has the family decided to go public with its strong feelings about the need for America and the larger world to reconsider how it deals with hostage situations.

The US and UK are among those countries with strict laws forbidding such ransom payments, and the Foleys have now publicly stated that they were warned that they would face prosecution if they violated those laws and made payment.

It has also been GlobalPost’s policy, borrowed from long-standing and existing policies at the BBC and other major international news organizations, to refuse to ever pay ransom in the event of a hostage taking and to immediately involve the US government in handling it as a criminal matter.

While they struggled with the stark reality of US law, the Foleys learned that there were a number of European countries, including France and Spain, actively coordinating to secure the release of other hostages held by IS alongside Jim Foley by making payments of between $3 million and $5 million. Diane Foley reached out to these families and traveled to Europe. She returned desperate to try to do the same, if that was indeed the only way to save her son.

“It was horrible — and continues to be horrible. You are between a rock and a hard place,” as Diane Foley described her ordeal to the New York Times.

Senior US law enforcement officials have insisted that they were in constant contact with the Foley family. But they said,they were limited in what information they could share, as much of it was classified.

These officials added that they were bound by US law, which mandates a zero concession policy: The government refuses to accede to terrorist demands for money or the release of prisoners, arguing that doing so creates a perverse incentive that would encourage more kidnapping. Indeed, there is some evidence that IS stepped up its kidnapping efforts in part to finance its operations, stunning the world when they pushed forward across the Syrian border and captured the city of Mosul and a swath of territory about the size of Maryland.

In early July, the Foleys were told, the US military secretly landed in the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria in a failed raid. They did not find Foley or his fellow captives, who had apparently been moved to another hiding place. The Foleys say they were not made aware of this raid until after the FBI confirmed the video that depicts his execution.

I spoke with a private investigator, who was formerly a member of an elite military unit that had conducted similar raids, about kidnap and ransom cases. He has worked in this shadowy world for many years and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said the Foleys have every right to be frustrated and angry because US policy on the matter has been inconsistent and confusing, pointing out that the publicly stated policy was violated when five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo were released in exchange for the captured US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

He added that he believes every family should be allowed to pursue buying their loved ones’ freedom.

“Anyone in this world who has a child or a loved one understands that very human response to want to save a life at any cost. You can do that, and not give up the fight to destroy those who carried out the kidnapping and the organization that is behind them,” said the investigator, who was not among those who worked with the Foleys on their case.

This summer just after the terrible news of Jim’s death, I ran into the acclaimed Harvard University law professor and expert on terrorism, Alan Dershowitz, and we discussed the complex set of legal and moral questions around whether or not to pay ransom to a terrorist group like the Islamic State to secure freedom for a loved one.

“Any parent would do anything to save a child’s life. And I think they should be able to,” he said. “I would think of it as paying with one hand while preparing with the other hand to destroy the terrorists who do this.”

He said that the Americans and the British were not alone in having a fractured and flawed policy, but that Israel also proclaims publicly to have zero tolerance for paying ransom or exchanging prisoners. But he said they frequently do prisoner exchanges, including the release of some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including many convicted of multiple murders and terrorism, in exchange for the 2011 release of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas for five years.

David Rohde, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times who now writes a column for Reuters, has been outspoken on this issue and speaks with perhaps more authority than any other journalist. That’s because he has lived it. He was held in captivity by the Taliban for seven months, while his family was told it was not legal to pay the Taliban for his release, before he managed to escape on his own in 2009 using a rope that he had stowed away.

The policy questions surrounding the debate are agonizingly difficult. But, as Rohde points out in his Aug. 20 column, what is needed most is for thought leaders, diplomats, victims as well as international businesses, aid agencies and news organizations to all come together and deal with the peril they face, and try to agree on a set of recognized standards and practices. Rohde writes:

“The payment of ransoms and abduction of foreigners must emerge from the shadows. It must be publicly debated. American and European policymakers should be forced to answer for their actions.

Foley believed that his government would help him, according to his family. In a message that was not made public, Foley said that he believed so strongly that Washington would help that he refused to allow his fellow American captives to not believe in their government.

A consistent response to kidnapping by the US and Europe is desperately needed. The current haphazard approach is failing.

James Foley must not die in vain.”

There is something about the Foley family’s intense faith, their extraordinary strength and their undying belief in their son’s work as a journalist that gives anyone lucky enough to know them a great confidence that Jim Foley will never die in vain.

The James W. Foley Legacy Fund seems to be their way of making sure that Jim is honored. And not only do they want to honor him by working with other families who are enduring the agony of a kidnap and ransom situation. But as they describe the mission of the fund, they also want to honor Jim’s service at Teach for America and his many years teaching and mentoring disadvantaged, urban school kids about writing and about life.

Perhaps most poignantly, the Foleys want to honor Jim’s great passion for reporting on the ground, telling stories that mattered, and his great compassion for the people he reported on.

As John and Diane wrote in the statement announcing the Fund, “Jim’s life challenges us all to love and forgive one another, and to make this world a better place.”

GlobalPost Co-founder Charles M. Sennott is Executive Director of The GroundTruth Project which trains and mentors the next generation of international correspondents to do social justice reporting that can make a difference, and to do it safely.

Royal Baby News Doesn’t Really Excite Americans, Poll Finds

September 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

Last week, Great Britain’s royal family announced that Kate Middleton, aka the Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant with her second child. A new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that Americans just aren’t that interested.

Only 7 percent of respondents said they have been following the news about the duchess’s pregnancy very closely, and another 22 percent said they’ve followed it somewhat closely. On the other end of the spectrum, 35 percent said they have not followed the news very closely, and another 30 percent said they haven’t paid attention at all.

There was a substantial gender divide, with 39 percent of women following the pregnancy news very or somewhat closely, while only 18 percent of men said the same.

Why aren’t Americans paying much attention to Kate Middleton’s happy announcement? Maybe because they aren’t all that enthusiastic about another round of royal baby. Only 7 percent said they are very excited that Middleton is pregnant again. Eighteen percent said they are somewhat excited, and another 19 percent said they’re not very excited. Nearly half (48 percent) said they are not at all excited that Middleton is expecting her second child.

But it’s not just the duchess whom Americans are tired of hearing about. Americans are fairly unenthused about media coverage of the entire British royal family. Fifty-six percent said the media spend too much time covering stories about the royal family, while 26 percent said the media spend the right amount of time. Just 2 percent said there’s too little coverage of the royals.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Sept. 11-12 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.

‘Miss America’ Broadcast Misspells Jane Austen As ‘Jane Austin’

September 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

Looks like someone at the “Miss America” pageant is lacking a little sense and sensibility.

During Sunday night’s broadcast, bits of trivia about each contestant popped up on the screen, including the fact that Miss New York Kira Kazantsev (who would go on to win the contest) “loves anything Jane Austin.”

Of course, the author’s name is spelled Jane Austen.

The mistake didn’t go unnoticed on Twitter:

Jane Austin? Jane AUSTIN?! *sets everything on fire* pic.twitter.com/MUtYm48DSe

— Stacey E. Singleton (@staceyNYCDC) September 15, 2014

Stone Cold Jane Austin

— Helena Fitzgerald (@helfitzgerald) September 15, 2014

@derekahunter @dangainor @ABCNetwork @MissAmericaOrg I’ve always preferred Jane Houston but I steer clear of Jane Dallas and Jane Austin

— Freedom (@fiscalconserve) September 15, 2014

Maybe Jane Austin is a really obscure author in some far corner of the internet and we’re all just not cool enough to know.

— Tyler (@oktysure) September 15, 2014

Turns out, Jane Austin was also an author: a 19th-century American novelist and short story writer who penned more than 20 books.

maybe they misspelled jane austen or MAYBE cup girl is super into the shadow of moloch mountain how are we to know http://t.co/GrT9GxKbTb

— Rachel Syme (@rachsyme) September 15, 2014

The “Austin” error wasn’t the only thing unusual about on-screen bits of trivia. Mashable has a look at some of the truly odd “facts” to pop up during the show, such as a contestant terrified of frogs, one attacked by a cheetah and a young lady nicknamed “Bob.”

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